This post is part of a series that contains strong language and heavy subject matter. Click here to start at the beginning or consult the table of contents.

I couldn't use a knife. Too scary. And it would probably just end with me having a knife sticking out of me without being able to explain why a knife was sticking out of me. Water was out of the question: I blamed it on lack of willpower to stay under. No, drugs were my only viable option, even if they carried the chance of vomiting everywhere and still being locked up in the loony bin.

It was just a few weeks after my fifteenth birthday. I had decided that it would be my last. The only question was how I would be leaving the world. Thoughts of suicide had swirled in my head since my age was still in single digits, but I had given little thought to the execution. I wanted it to be soon. Well, I wanted it to be in the past, but life not turning out how I wanted was part of the reason I was having this dilemma, in the first place.

But drugs: drugs sounded good. I wasn't sure if I meant pharmaceuticals, illicit drugs or a combination. I also wasn't sure how I would get my hands on enough to be sure I would die instead of making myself a vegetable. I had easy access to weed, but that definitely wasn't going to do the trick. Alcohol could help, though. I finally decided that I would choose a date to give myself a deadline for the specifics.

Being a dork, I actually wrote the date down in a planner. Being a procrastinator, I didn't have any of the planning done a few days before the date. When my mom asked if I would go with her to a party that our church's singles group was having on that date, I agreed. It would allow me to do one last thing to make my mom happy, and pushing my death back would give me more time to plan.

I never imagined that my choice of what shirt to wear to a party could be used to change the course of my life. The shirt in question was black and had a lot of characters from Dragonball Z printed on the front of it. A ten-year-old boy at the party saw my shirt and decided that this teenager should be his new best friend. He asked me endless questions about who my favorite character was, what was going to happen later in the story, whether his favorite character was going to die.

I didn't want the boy around me, but I didn't have the heart to tell him that. Whenever I would move somewhere else, he would follow me, asking more questions or recounting some of his favorite scenes with unbound enthusiasm. Something about him seemed familiar. I decided that I would let him get it all out of his system. Once he exhausted Dragonball Z as a topic, he would get bored of me and go do something else.

It wasn't until we had been talking for a couple hours that I realized Dragonball Z hadn't come up for quite a while. His parents had divorced; he and his sister were at the party with their father. He had just turned ten and would be entering fifth grade once summer ended.

At that moment, nothing could've convinced me that there was any hope for me to change. I was too far gone. But there was hope for this boy.

I went home that night and prayed. The last few years, my only communication with God had been to curse him out. That night, I promised him that I would stay alive long enough to be sure that the boy I met wouldn't be lost like I was.

It's been eighteen years since most of this happened. I have worked in children's and youth ministry for the last fourteen. Through the years, people have expressed that they would only work with kids in the middle grades (4th-8th) if God told them with an audible voice to do so. The sentiment is always that the age is too difficult to retain your sanity for long.

What's interesting is that I don't disagree. Too often, people ascribe this difficulty to raging hormones, "the terrible tweens," or other such nonsense. The reality is that this age range is a crucial and confusing transition between "kid" and "teen." Sometimes you have the responsibility and privilege of a teen; sometimes you're still regarded as a little kid. Expectations range from entirely too little and what can feel like a soul-crushing amount. Navigating who you were, are and want to be is incredibly difficult with so many disparate influences.

This age is too difficult to not care about. My story is just one. There are many others represented within it. I am so thankful for God's deliverance from being the hateful, spiteful person I became. He took my guilt from me. He surrounded me with spiritual fathers that I can trust, that I know are not just waiting for an opportunity to hurt me. Some of these fathers poured into me the wisdom to finally see the difference between reasons and excuses. They also imbued in me the confidence and courage to not purposely confuse the two.

I have been asked many times if I believe that I am so drawn to this age group because of what I went through, or if I believe that what I went through equipped me for this part of my purpose. The only answer that feels true is to simply say, "Yes."

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